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Ole Miss football season in review: Offense

Petre Thomas/The Daily Mississippian

Quarterback:

Ole Miss was never able to find consistency at quarterback, evidenced by the revolving door of starters at the position. Junior Randall Mackey was in position to start the season opener, but was arrested before the season started and consequently was suspended. Mackey eventually came back, playing in nine games and starting five of them. For the season, Mackey struggled with accuracy as he completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw an interception in all but one SEC game that he played in. He was later suspended for the LSU and Mississippi State games for violating team rules, and his status with the team going forward will be interesting to watch.

Sophomore Barry Brunetti, a transfer from West Virginia, started the season opener in Mackey’s place, but attempted only four passes before being benched. Brunetti came on in relief of junior Zack Stoudt in the LSU game and then started the season finale against Mississippi State.  He showed flashes of talent in those two games that could make him the frontrunner for the starting job next season, depending on what coach takes over the program. Stoudt played well in his first start against Southern Illinois, but threw five interceptions in a loss to Vanderbilt the next year and played only sparingly down the stretch.

Running backs:

Hopes were high for senior running back Brandon Bolden, who rushed for 976 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. However, injuries and a one-game suspension marred his last season in an Ole Miss uniform. Bolden broke a bone in his ankle in the season opener against BYU and had to miss the next game against Southern Illinois. Bolden returned the next week, but battled injuries all season long, as he rarely looked 100 percent on the field. He finished with 472 rushing yards and four touchdowns for the season.

Sophomore Jeff Scott led the team in rushing with 529 rushing yards and six touchdown, but failed to top 78 rushing yards against a SEC defense. Like Mackey, Scott was also suspended for the season’s final two games. With Bolden and Enrique Davis (who rushed for 173 yards in his senior season) graduating, Scott’s status with the team is even more important heading into next season.

Wide receivers/Tight ends:

Wide receiver seems to be one of the few bright spots this past season and for the Rebels going forward. Talented freshmen Donte Moncrief and Nickolas Brassell were Ole Miss’ top two receivers. Moncrief finished with a freshman school-record 454 receiving yards and four touchdowns, while Brassell added 336 receiving yards and two touchdowns, as well as playing cornerback on defense.

The duo will only improve with more experience and consistency at quarterback. Sophomore Ja-Mes Logan, freshman Tobias Singleton and freshman Collins Moore, among others will combine with Moncrief and Brassell to make the wide receiver corps the best unit on the Ole Miss offense in the years to come. At tight end, junior college transfer Jamal Mosley looks like an NFL tight end, but caught only 12 passes for 166 yards in 2011. He’ll return with junior Ferbia Allen to give Ole Miss a pair of seniors at the position next season.

Offensive Line:

The offensive line was much maligned all season long, as the unit struggled both in pass protection and in run blocking. The Rebels ranked tied for 99th in the country by allowing 33 sacks to opposing defenses this season. Freshman Aaron Morris stepped in and played at left guard at times and could receive a long look at left tackle with senior Bradley Sowell graduating. Sophomore Evan Swindall and junior AJ Hawkins rotated at the center position before Swindall took over, and that battle will continue into next season. Junior right tackle Bobbie Massie could leave for the NFL and his decision will be one to watch in the coming weeks. Improvement at this position is key for the Rebels going into next year.